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Journalism of Courage

Brahmastra may break Bollywood’s dry spell. But the film is not without its flaws

Brahmastra has secured an impressive opening at the box office. But to meet the expectations of a demanding and fickle audience, the trilogy needs to live up to the scale of its ambition

Brahmastra box office collectionBrahmastra is well on its way to become a blockbuster.

With a worldwide box-office collection of Rs 75-crore on its opening day, Brahmastra Part One: Shiva has heightened the Hindi film industry’s hope of ending the dry spell at the box office. The road to its theatrical release has been bumpy, notwithstanding the promise of a grand spectacle — with a cocktail of mythology, superpowers, technical marvels and star-studded cast — as boycott calls rang out loud. The first instalment of the ambitious trilogy, written and directed by Ayan Mukerji, seems to have deflected the barbs for now. The hectic multi-city promotion, which included temple visits, led by Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, and bookings opening six days before the film’s release, have done the trick.

The Hindi film industry has eagerly awaited a mass entertainer to end the pandemic-induced lull at the box office. The poor returns from Shamshera, Laal Singh Chaddha and Raksha Bandhan had turned the film fraternity cagey. With Brahmastra, the sentiments have improved. It was released on 5,019 screens in India and 3,894 overseas and is expected to register a total weekend collection of around Rs 200 crore. Today, the business of cinema is heavily dependent on opening weekend collections and the attendant buzz that spurs a theatrical run.

For an industry at the receiving end of smear campaigns and slander for over two years now, Brahmastra’s earnings underscore the fact that a gripping drama/entertainer can survive boycott calls. It also silences doomsayers who were eager to write Bollywood’s obituary after the pan-India success of Pushpa, KGF 2 and RRR. PVR’s Kamal Gianchandani has even tweeted this morning that they are “having a fabulous weekend which is so encouraging given the massive lineup of films over the next three months”.

This is not to say that Brahmastra is without flaws, its main weakness being storytelling and dialogues. The lack of chemistry between Kapoor and Bhatt, a real-life couple, is a major downer, especially since their love story is supposed to be the soul of this superhero saga. Their love-at-first-sight track is a cliche and in the absence of organic onscreen chemistry, it’s hard to establish the power of their romance. Naming their characters Shiva (Kapoor) and Isha (Bhatt) – which is another name for Parvati — doesn’t make up for this shortcoming.

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The Hindi film industry always had a large base of ticket-buying audiences. That’s not likely to change even if the number of OTT subscribers increases. But this loyal, film-loving audience is also quite demanding and fickle. It wants entertainment and movies that offer something new. Moviegoers want consistency and coherence in storytelling, be it a fantasy or action thriller or family drama. That’s quite a challenge particularly when a movie expands its canvas. Brahmastra has a few questions to answer, such as why does it cast Dimple Kapadia, who makes selective appearances on screen, in a blink-and-miss role? Are the makers introducing her for upcoming instalments? Why are the supporting characters not given more depth? What’s the use of a routine song-and-dance sequence if it’s not contributing to the narrative?

There is no doubt that a movie of this scale exudes an ambition rarely seen in Hindi cinema. The budget of the first instalment is speculated to be around Rs 400 crore; the trilogy aspires to create an Astraverse; and, it has already teased the audience with the announcement of Brahmastra Part Two: Dev just before the end credits roll. Such tentpole movies, however, come with their own challenges, the primary one being the ability to hold the audience’s attention with a series of shock and awe. The scale of a movie works when the characters’ actions are grand and their journey exceptional. At a time when streamers are showing House of the Dragon (Disney+Hotstar) and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Prime Video), movies have to make that extra effort to create a sense of wonder among the audience. Brahmastra, which has the backing of some of the biggest and best in the business, including SS Rajamouli and Karan Johar, should address its shortcomings if it wants to draw in the audience, across India and abroad. After all, who doesn’t like spectacle and high-drama to escape the grim realities of life?


First published on: 10-09-2022 at 17:25 IST
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